University Counseling Center (UCC)
Taking Care of Yourself During Times of Tragedy and Stress
It is very normal to experience a variety of reactions, even if you were not directly involved with anyone in each incident. Some very normal reactions can include:
- Shock: often the initial reaction to events like this. Shock is the person's emotional protection from being too overwhelmed by the event. You may feel stunned, numb, or in disbelief concerning the event.
- Suffering: this is the long period of grief during which the person gradually comes to terms with the reality of the event/loss. Feelings that life is overwhelming, chaotic and disorganized are common.
- Sadness: The most common feeling found following traumatic events like this. It may become quite intense and be experienced as emptiness or despair.
- Anger: Can be one of the most confusing feelings for the grieving person. Anger is a response to feeling powerless, frustrated, or even abandoned. This feeling is very common in reaction to suicides.
- Anxiety: Can range from mild insecurity to strong panic attacks. Often grievers become anxious about their ability to take care of themselves, or fear an event like this will happen to them or a loved one.
- Guilt: Including thoughts such as "If only I had.."
It is very important to take care of yourself during this time. Some ideas for doing so are:
- Talk it out with a friend, family member, advisor or therapist (UCC is available 24/7 by calling 275-3113.
- Reach out to your spiritual leaders for support, attend religious services, pray, meditate. The Interfaith Chapel can be reached at 275-4321
- Turn off the television. You want to stay informed, but try to limit the amount of news you take in. Watching a news report once informs you; watching it over and over again just adds to the stress and contributes no new knowledge.
- Reach out to your friends and family and other support systems - use this time as an excuse to strengthen those relationships.
- List all the things you have to do and prioritize. Do the top few and leave the rest for the next day.
- Do something for someone else. It will help to forget your problems and make you feel good about yourself.
- Go to a quiet place. Noise and chaos might contribute to your state of mind.
- Take a long hot bath or shower.
- Get a good night's sleep. It will make you more productive and able to deal with the situation.
- Take care of your body. Exercise and eat well, avoiding caffeine, greasy food and sugar.
- Avoid excessive alcohol use or drug use. It leads to more stress in the long run.
- Learn and practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, etc.
- Manage your time, anticipate stressful situations and plan time for them.
- As always, if you are concerned that a friend or fellow student is in danger of hurting themselves or someone else, please call security in an emergency (x13), or call UCC for support and help in evaluating the situation.
If you find your regular coping methods are not helping, and you find yourself troubled by these reactions for several days past the incident in such a way that they are impacting your regular routine (academics, sleeping, eating, socializing), it may be helpful to talk to a professional for extra support. Call us for an appointment at 275-3113. If you have already gone home for the summer, you can ask friends or family, your family doctor, or a religious leader for referrals to a therapist in your hometown.